United States
August 30, 2022

Austal USA and Saildrone, Inc. announce strategic partnership

MOBILE, Ala. – Austal USA and Saildrone, Inc. are pleased to announce a strategic partnership to build cutting-edge, autonomous uncrewed surface vehicles.

This new partnership combines Saildrone’s uncrewed surface vehicle technology with Austal USA’s advanced manufacturing capabilities. The partnership provides the U.S. Navy and other government customers a cutting-edge solution for maritime domain awareness, hydrographic survey, and other missions requiring persistent wide area coverage.

The partnership ensures that production of the Saildrone Surveyor will accelerate to meet the rapidly growing demand for the ground breaking technology. The Surveyor was developed and designed by Saildrone and will be manufactured exclusively by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. 

The Saildrone Surveyor, at 65 feet (20m) in length, is designed specifically for deep ocean mapping and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications, both above and below the surface. As with all Saildrone vehicles, the Surveyor is autonomous and uncrewed, offering extreme endurance, reliability and cost effective operations. With its industry-leading expertise in aluminum shipbuilding, Austal USA is uniquely equipped to fabricate the Surveyor’s aluminum hulls and ensure rapid delivery to the Fleet.

“We are extremely pleased to enter into this agreement with Saildrone. It is a great fit as both of us are leaders in our respective markets and we both strive to provide leading edge solutions to the U.S. Navy,” said Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh. “With our lean manufacturing techniques and serial production capabilities, Austal USA will provide large scale fabrication of these vehicles and with our partner Saildrone rapidly get the capability to the Fleet.”

Austal will begin manufacturing the first Saildrone Surveyor vehicles for the U.S. Navy in October 2022.

“Saildrone is the clear world leader in small uncrewed systems, with a track record of almost one million ocean miles under our belt on our 100-strong fleet,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone Founder and CEO. “Austal is leading the way in the large uncrewed sector, pioneering autonomy and reliability of much larger systems capable of carrying much heavier payloads. We see these two technologies as extremely complementary. Building these two extremes of size in the same facility, and leveraging Austal’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, will dramatically accelerate our ability to get Saildrones into the hands of our customers.”

Autonomous vessel capability has been identified as an area of strategic importance by the U.S. Navy. Alabama has been investing in uncrewed technology, quickly becoming the epicenter of autonomous naval architecture. Austal USA and Saildrone, Inc. represent cutting-edge uncrewed technology, with Saildrone’s extreme endurance, renewably powered vehicles being built alongside the continued development of Overlord vessels and the conversion of EPF 13 into an autonomous platform. Both companies’ investments in autonomous technology will contribute to new jobs in Alabama and the continued growth in south Alabama’s development as a center for uncrewed surface platform technology. 

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